Reeling In Raleigh: The State of the Wolfpack

Marc HalstedCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2009

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 3:  Quarterback Russell Wilson #16 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drops back to pass with protection by Jeraill McCuller #50 against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the game at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 3, 2009 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Tom O’Brien is a good man. Nine years of service for the U.S. Marines puts him at the top of any list of great people in college football. He works hard, recruits hard, runs a clean program, and makes the good people of North Carolina proud.

But the Wolfpack are terrible.

Last Thursday night South Carolina put up seven points, missed a field goal, threw a shoulda-been-a-heart-breaker interception, and lacked the offensive power to put away NC State after scoring a touchdown on their first possession. They were also missing three suspended defensive players. 

The Wolfpack countered with 131 total yards, a porous offensive line that sent Russell Wilson scrambling for his life throughout the game, and a run game that averaged less than two yards per attempt.

The end result was an anemic 7-3 loss on opening night during the primetime Thursday game on ESPN. Oh, and it happened at home. In Raleigh. In front of the the college football world.

What is abundantly clear is that NC State is not the elite ACC program we thought they’d be this year. They won four straight regular season games to end 2008. They beat all three of their in-state rivals from North Carolina a year ago. They currently have the preseason All-ACC first team quarterback in Wilson and solid talents at wide receiver and tight end. But something isn’t right.

South Carolina played at a speed that NC State couldn’t match. Eric Norwood and the Gamecock defense was all over the field haunting Wilson every time he was forced out of the pocket by the USC defensive line. 

The only life Wolfpack fans saw came in the all-too-infrequent run-blitz packages put together by defensive coordinator Mike Archer. Of course, it was against Stephen Garcia and a feeble USC offense.

Tom O’Brien has a few pieces of the puzzle on the field and he’s got a few more waiting for their chance on the sidelines. Mike Glennon, the 6’6 heir apparent to the quarterback position, is the big name recruit that NC State fans have been waiting for.

But this is the school of Mario Williams, Torry Holt and Philip Rivers.  This is a program that has the name recognition, enough tradition, the necessary facilities, and the necessary local talent to be better than a 7-3 loss on opening night at home against a bottom tier SEC team. This is a program with a passionate fan base who wants to win now.

It’s time for North Carolina State to start acting like an ACC power.  It’s definitely time to find more life in what could quickly become a moribund program as the 2009 versions of UNC, Wake, and even East Carolina continue to garner more national attention with bigger names, bigger wins, and bigger recruits.

If things in Raleigh don’t change, that passionate fan base may want to check to see if Phil Fulmer or Jon Gruden are available for next season.  If the Wolfpack don't put away Murray State and Gardner-Webb over the next two weeks that same passionate fan base may want to see if Chuck Amato and Lou Holts are available this season.